by Senator Bob Smith
According to data from the
U.S. Department of Education's
The State Legislature is currently considering the idea of a Constitutional Convention to revamp the property tax as the primary source of funding for education costs. Isn't the question to be asked is whether our existing educational delivery system is as efficient as it should be?
The current system of 617
independent school districts is inherently designed to be the most inefficient educational services delivery in the
county school systems, either solely or in conjunction with additional districts for their larger urban centers.
These states spend less
Consolidating the current 617 school districts into 21 county-based school districts would put our schools on a rational management basis and reduce duplication in such cost areas as transportation, maintenance, and purchasing. The savings from consolidated transportation services alone should justify county-based districts. Other benefits of county-based school districts could be realized. State and federal aid formulas to schools could be calculated and distributed on a more rational and equitable basis, and data collection necessary from computing aid formulas could be somewhat easier. Policy and management would be uniform. Teachers would have more job opportunities. Perhaps one of the more significant benefits of 21 county systems would be that magnet and other types of schools focused on the performing and creative arts, technology, sciences, and vocational training could be set up and integrated within the county system, thereby offering talented students more opportunities to pursue courses of study in line with their study preferences, career goals and aspirations.
Data shows that spinning
off school districts into new districts only increases educational costs
per-student, while consolidated districts decreases
these costs. Various experts estimate that $1 billion to $1.5 billion in
savings could be achieved by converting the current inefficient system to county-based
school districts. Such savings could provide some real property-tax relief
while seriously addressing how we can improve
Nor would public oversight be diminished, because uniform county policies and data would be easier to monitor. It is important to remember that education will always need parental and community participation at the most fundamental level, the school itself.
Significantly, county-based school districts would enrich the democratic process because citizens, parents, school officials, and educators would have to discuss broader-based needs and consider the general good and welfare of all county students rather than just those within a small area.
Common goals would need to be formulated, the wider view taken, people from different areas and diverse backgrounds would need to work together and take the long range view. I have introduced a bill in the Senate, S 410, which calls for a non-binding public ballot question on whether we should shift to county-based school districts. It's time for public examination and debate on the issues of funding education.
Bob Smith, represents the 17th District in the State Senate